I’ve been following the horse meat scandal unfold with some (former) professional interest; my background is in animal sciences and the food chain.
Upto 100% of your “beef” lasagna or spag bol can actually be horse lasagna or spag bol according to the most recent discoveries. Neigh!
Firstly, I genuinely believe this has been brought about by deliberate deceit and greed.
However the issues arising during this scandal are multiple-
- the food chain is driven by our desire for cheap food, yet the food chain at each link beyond the farm gate, especially the supermarkets, are making a sizable margin; Something has to give!
- the global economy is linked and interlinked– in this case what seems to have happened is a traffic law change in the corner of the EU*, this then affects the food quality in the UK.
- there are disparate cultural differences– the EU was formed by generally rule abiding countries, some of those joining have a culture where it’s an honour to find the loopholes in the law or to do things illegally and get away with it; yet we still create rules assuming a cultural background of the former.
BBC quoted research from Kantar:
A third of people in the UK who responded to a poll on Monday on their shopping habits said they were less likely to buy processed meat as a result of horsemeat scandal.
A quarter of the 6,221 people who replied said they did not buy processed meat anyway and a further third (36%) said it would not make any difference to their shopping habits.
Going forward, I believe, most of these wider issues will not change. We might put in place DNA testing & other controls to cover this particular risk. However the greed, the interconnectedness and the cultural differences stay.
People are generally selfish and few, who do it anyway, have the conscience that stops them doing stupid and illegal things just because of the wider effect it may have. If you watch the BBC program Food Inspectors, you will see ample example of illegal or grey food product imports. Problem with these is that they are not scrutinized like the legal ones-they can introduce disease, contain contaminates and so on.
And this is the problem I see with the horse meat scandal: Not only was the meat from a different species, but what reassurances are there that this meat did not by-pass the usual checks, what reassurances do we have that those animals were not fed inappropriate feed with contaminates, hormones, antibiotics and so on?
Our farmers have strict guidelines to adhere to in order to produce safe food. They also have numerous animal welfare issues they need to address. Have any of these rules and regulations been observed for the horses in the pies?
Our farmers cannot compete on an uneven playing field!
The bigger issue, however, is that with a growing population, we are heading towards a food crisis… and that’s not just in poor parts of Africa as we see now!
We just won’t be able to sustain the level of meat consumption we have with current production methods, unless we don’t mind huge disparities and large populations starving. We, mainly in the West, do need to adopt alternative sources of protein into our diet… and horse meat is just a delicacy compared to what we may need to look at.
I believe that we, as individuals, need to address these issues from the ground up.
But where do we start? Would love some suggestions on what you are doing to give your family the most healthy options in terms of food?
The first step, let’s observe Ash Wednesday and not have any meat today
… then maybe a Meatfree Monday to start?
*Just recently a large population of horses and donkeys have been made redundant in Romania after it became illegal to use them on public roads to draw carts and carriages